The trucking industry is currently facing some unique challenges as it attempts to battle record low numbers of drivers entering the profession. Some feel that hiring too many young, inexperienced drivers is attributing to the number of truck crashes now occurring each year. But what about older drivers?
Research is beginning to show that an increase in the number of older operators on the road is also adding to the number of truck wrecks. To fully understand the cause of operator-related truck accidents, it is important to consider how advancing age can play a part in this.
Are Older Drivers A Solution for the Driver Shortage?
Faced with a severe driver shortage, trucking companies are all looking for new ways to retain and recruit enough operators to keep their fleets on the road. Many are doing what they can to hold onto older drivers, including those reaching retirement age. Others are turning to a recent trend of hiring retirees from other professions who are looking for a new career. While this does make sense overall since older, more mature individuals are likely to be reliable and offer fewer risks, recent safety research also suggests that these drivers may be increasing the yearly number of truck accidents.
Older Drivers Are Causing More Accidents
According to recent research, 10% of the nation’s tractor trailer operators are 65 years or older and became operators as a second or third career. They only make up a small portion of commercial drivers; the largest group are aged 40 to 55. Startlingly, recent safety studies done on truck crashes suggest that older drivers are most responsible for the increase in truck wrecks in the past few years. Accidents involving older, elderly operators have increased as much as 19% up to 2015. Safety organizations are concerned that as more older operators enter the workforce, truck accident rates will continue to rise.
Does Age Really Matter?
Apparently the answer is "yes" when it comes to driving a big rigs that are not easy to operate. This is largely because most people over the age of 60 have some sort of health condition that affects them in certain ways; for those that do not specific health problems, even normal aging takes its toll. Older operators are more likely to experience reduced hearing and worsening vision, develop sleep-related problems, or suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
All of these issues can dramatically affect their ability to operate a large, heavy vehicle. Concentration, cognitive ability, and reaction time which are skills required for safe truck driving begin to reduce as the body ages, increasing the chance of truck crashes. Even the most experienced operators can end up with reduced abilities as their age advances, making them more likely to be involved in truck wrecks.
Considering the growing statistics on truck accidents among elderly drivers, the question remains whether there should be an age limit for operating these vehicles. Safety organizations are considering this very idea due to the results of recent crash studies. While offering older Americans a chance at a new career while solving the driver shortage problem is definitely a plus, the increase in truck crashes is something that must be taken into account.
Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP
Robert W. Hildebrand, Attorney at Law
J. Daniel Wilson, Attorney at Law
7830 Broadway, Suite 122
Pearland TX 77581
Phone: (281) 410-5810